Laura Del Rosso
Laura Del Rosso

Alexander Graham Bell's oft-quoted comment “When one door closes, another opens” could be David Porter's motto because of the unexpected career trajectory that led him to start a travel business. Porter and his wife, Carol, had long planned to retire and travel when he turned 50. When the big birthday came along, they sold their mortgage business in Michigan, downsized to a smaller house in Arizona and set off to see the world. That was in 2006.

The couple had barely made a dent in their bucket list of places to visit when the stock market crashed in 2008. Suddenly, they had to rethink their early retirement.

“We had to do something different, or we were going to run out of money. And, running out of money when you're 75 is not a good idea,” said Porter.

By this time, the couple was hooked on travel. They also had realized they were not alone: fellow baby boomers were planning to spend much of their retirement years on the road.

The Porters started a website and blog, the Roaming Boomers, shooting videos and writing about their travels. They quickly got thousands of visitors, boosted by their active approach to social media, as boomers thirsty for travel information found them online. “They were asking us 'can we go with you? Can you help us plan our travel'?”

Today, the couple operates the Roaming Boomers travel agency from their home office in Scottsdale. They are affiliated with a host agency, Cadence Travel of La Jolla, Calif., a Virtuoso member.

“We've got a year under our belt, and we're starting to see a consistent income flow. Our objective is to get relatively stable and add a staff person. Then we can get back out and travel.”

Most of their customers are coming via referrals and the website. The Porters also issue a regular newsletter that reaches 4,000 subscribers each month.

They are focusing on a few specialties, but their top revenue generator is river cruises, ideal for their demographic market, he said. “River boats are positioning themselves well and are such a nice experience for people who don't have interest in going to a casino or putting on a tux.”

Porter says there are similarities with his previous work in the mortgage business. “As an entrepreneur, owning one business is very similar o another. The only thing that is different is the end product. In mortgage, people came to us for our advice; it's the same thing here. People want to travel, and, at the end of the day, when you boil it down, they are looking for advice and are looking for someone they can trust. To earn their trust, that's the important thing.”

He added: “I'm now 58 years old. It's been difficult to start over again, but it's something we absolutely love. People in the mortgage business think I'm insane because there's more financial gain there. It's not my goal to have the world's largest travel agency but to build a nice database of clients and have what I call a lifestyle business, rather than out conquering the world like I wanted to do 30 years ago.”

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